Does slang make you sound stupid? | The Observer debate

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This article (click the pic) is gold-dust for English Language students, and the comments make for good reading, too (although, it being ‘The Grauniad’ website, there’s a bit of a dearth of Mr Angry from Tunbridge Wells style prescriptivists getting hot under the collar).

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4 Responses to Does slang make you sound stupid? | The Observer debate

  1. Cass Brown says:

    I think one of the problems with this is: what we consider to be ‘slang’. What was thought of as slang say, 30 years ago, might now have infiltrated into the English vocabulary so thoroughly that now it is classed as standard English. Furthermore, i’ve been sat here for about 5 minutes and can’t think of a definition for the world. I googled it and one definition i found is: ‘A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of short-lived coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.’ Surely that deifniiton could also sit nicely with ideolect? I think the fact that Emma Thompson describles articulacy as a ‘form of human freedom and power’ is not only a bit of a contadiction, but downright foolish. Freedom in language is surely taking a descriptivist stance and using language as a tool to excersise individuality (perhaps by using ‘slang’). Prescriptivism is the exact opposite; tieing everyone to one specific way of language and in fact taking freedom away from the speaker. And lets be honest, Emma Thompson has probably just got something against working class people!I wrote the above before actually reading the debate, (i think me and DB are on the same wave length here ;)). I don’t understand why Mccrum says we live in a culture of ‘linguistic rightness’. Of all cultures, we live in one of the most varied in terms of language. In all my 18 years the last quality i would lend to the Brittish culture is ‘a sense of linguistic rightness’, especially now in the 21st century. Not even the Queen’s English Society can justify that statement! Anyway, now RP is, from my experience, slated more so than ‘slang’. The development of film and television had a big influence on the way people perceived language and decades ago RP and proper English was perceived as the highest form of language that many would aspire to. Now, the media portrays film with a larger amount of slang and idiolect etc than ever before. Even news readers seem to have slackened off the RP and with the introduction of TV programmes like ‘celerbity Juice’, ‘slang’ and sociolect seem to be becoming cooler and more socially acceptable. Sorry about all the millions of typos there probably are (i just had to comment, but i’m very tired and need to go to bed). Hope you don’t mind me commenting!

  2. Anthony Heald says:

    Not at all, Cass! It’s great to hear from you. (For the benefit of readers who don’t know, Cass is an ex-McAuley student).I think you’re a bit harsh on Emma Thompson, though. If I understand her right, her view that articulacy is a “form of human freedom and power” seems unobjectionable, in the sense that the better you are able to express yourself in a range of linguistic varieties that carry prestige (whether overt or covert) in different social groups, the more power and freedom you are likely to have in your interaction with members of those groups.

  3. Ciretta Paone-Hoylang says:

    In a way I agree with Emma Thompson actually, I think that ‘text-speak’ is absolutely awful and would never use it myself. On the other hand, many (not all) of my friends who do use slang are actually the most intelligent of my peers. When Emma says: “I told them [the young students], just don’t do it. Because it makes you sound stupid and you’re not stupid” I don’t think she’s realising that when in the right situation, the students won’t be using slang. In a formal situation such as a university interview, people would most likely speak in a way which will create the best image for them; polite and intellectual. There is absolutely no need to do so in everyday life. Emma Thompson has grown up in a rich family of actors and actresses, for her the Queen’s English is the norm. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of English speakers today use some form of slang – sorry Emma, it’s not the 1960’s anymore.

  4. Ciretta Paone-Hoyland* says:

    Wrong time to spell my own name wrong?

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